It’s not rare for a band to release an EP of covers, or even an album of covers. Nor is it rare for a member of a band to release an EP for the sole purpose of releasing covers. Moreover, it’s not particularly out of the ordinary for an artist to cover more than one song by the same band. But what is peculiar is Decemberist Colin Meloy’s decision to self-release an EP’s worth of Morrissey covers to sell only at solo tour dates. For those of us who live in cities that Meloy didn’t visit on his most recent tour, getting a hold of a copy may be a little tricky. But some of us have our ways.
What’s on this EP is pretty much exactly what you would expect to be on it. Meloy picks six songs from throughout the Mozzer’s solo career, a few of which are lesser-known b-sides, proving the lengths of his fandom. For Meloy to take on a cover is not a strange idea, by any means. Those who heard The Decemberists’ take on Bjork’s “Human Behavior” know exactly how fantastic another’s song can sound in the hands of these PDX minstrels.
Despite Treble’s suggestion some time ago that The Decemberists should cover “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side,” Meloy doesn’t attempt any Smiths covers here. All of these are post-Marr, though, quite frankly, any Morrissey is welcome in my book. On his own, Meloy plays these tunes in a stripped-down, acoustic setting, the likes of which aren’t typical for either The Decemberists or Morrissey, for that matter. But because of the more intimate approach, these songs are given a new, quiet, charming appeal that finds them sounding freshly updated for 2005.
On the more upbeat songs, Meloy changes Morrissey’s glam and rockabilly-informed rock into folksy hoedowns. “Pregnant for the Last Time” is simple, but rocking (in an acoustic way, mind you), and “Sister I’m a Poet” is every bit as fun as the Mancunian’s original. On the quieter tracks, like “I Know Very Well How I Got My Name” and “Every Day is Like Sunday,” Meloy plays a more subdued take on Morrissey. But the multi-tracked harmonies of “Jack the Ripper” are the true high points on the EP. It’s a gorgeous three minutes, and for just a minute, you can almost hear the similarities between the Decemberists and Morrissey, just when you thought there weren’t any.
Call it indulgent. Call it silly. But Meloy can do a mean Moz cover. Now, if only he’d do “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” like we suggested, then we’d be well on our way.
The Decemberists – Billy Liar
Morrissey – My Early Burglary Years
Iron and Wine – Passing Afternoon
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.